29 July 2006

Two weeks of silence

I don't understand how easy it is to fall out of the habit of doing something so simple as a daily web log posting. It doesn't take much time -- more time some days than others. By no means does the posting have to be long, complex, particularly profound, or even entertaining. The way I see it the web log is about seeing and reflecting and then reflecting in some disciplined way, like writing. And, beyond that, it gives me the opportunity to communicate a bit of what I'm seeing and reflecting on with other people, in particular people in the mission congregation I serve and family and friends.

So, why has it been two weeks since I've signed on?

My last posting was from my parents' home. My father was in the hospital awaiting surgery and I was keeping my mother company. While it was an intense time, I did some writing. Then, with the day of surgery two days away, I returned home to conduct Sunday worship. With hours on the road coming and going, being however briefly involved with the people in my charge, catching up at home with Tal and the dogs, and preparing to leave again almost as soon as I'd arrived, I didn't work in any keyboard time. Then, or following the surgery back at Litchfield.

And, since the successful (blessedly) operation and my settling back in at home, well, let's just say there've not been enough hours. I've been in "making up for lost time" mode for ten days now.

But, if I'm completely honest, I know these two weeks between postings are pretty much the rule for me, not the wondrous exception I've made them out to be here. My almost 53 years of life are strewn with examples of not allowing time for the activities and the projects and the inquiries that might nourish me. I am far too busy for that, far too intent on crossing "t's" and dotting "i's" and taking care of endless detail, far too busy being busy.

Somewhere along the line I learned that I cannot do anything fun (translate that "non-work") until all the work is done. A sad fact: one of the most intensely happy moments of my life came on a vacation when I suddenly realized that the hotel room was completely orderly, my laundry rinsed and hanging over the shower rod, all the ever-so-necessary postcards written, addressed and stamped, and I felt -- suddenly and incomprehensively -- caught up. Such bliss I cannot begin to express. Something in me works toward that elusive goal all the time and, if I'm not careful, I'm going to end up at the conclusion of this earthly existence still waiting to get started on the fun stuff.

What do I want to do? Well, write, for one thing. Practice the piano. Walk every day. Finish (actually, get a serious start on) my currently-sitting-in-the-cedar-closet needlework project. Shoot pictures. Explore my contemplative bent. Keep up with friends.

Am I going to do any of them? I wonder. And I hope.

But, will I decide?

If I don't decide, that in itself will be a decision, a very sad decision.

13 July 2006

The center of everything now has an address

So read the claim -- in 18-inch letters -- I saw on a billboard yesterday. The "center of everything" is a housing development somewhere on on the Waccamaw Neck between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach SC. And frankly, I was so surprised by the visually "blaring" claim that I have no idea what the name of the development is, that particular detail presented more subtly and in smaller type than the declaration which caught and held my eye. (I was not driving at the time.)

Normally, I don't remember such things, but this billboard and that claim dreamed up by an advertising ageny and bought and paid for by the developers has stayed with me. Is it as outrageous as I think it is?

Maybe not. Everyone of us, if we're honest, at least initially sees ourself as the center of everything. That's the way we humans are built. With rare expection all human beings perceive everything that happens, all events, all ideas, all change, in terms of the impact those things will have on them personally.

On the other hand, I suspect the appeal of that billboard's claim will be in the direction of the haughty and is intended deliberately to set apart. Maybe I'm wrong. But, I fear there will be those -- beyond the developers -- who are going to "buy it", taking that message of exclusivity to heart.

11 July 2006

Evening at Kanuga

When I wrote the posting entitled "Happy 7th of July" my intention had been to include a photograph or two taken at dusk. But, I was writing from home in Edgefield County SC, where our connection to the internet is via dial-up. That connection is slow enough that the computer times out before a photo can up-load -- a very frustrating situation. My intention is to try going to the local McDonalds (which, thanks my my brother-in-law, is a wireless haven!) to put photos on VicarRidge. But, since I'm at Litchfield with my mother at present, I'm taking advantage of my folks' wireless house.

A portion of the lodge, looking across the porch and into the fireplace lounge, as seen from the path leading from the lake to the cottages

The entrance to the Chapel of the Transfiguration

Being at home

Our return home from Kanuga last Saturday has not been an simple transition. I told Tal, once the responsibilities of Guest Period #1 were over, what I'd really like to do was sit on the porch of the lodge overlooking the lake and rock and read for a time. That desire, while not fulfilled to the letter, was on my mind during our drive home and I realized -- at least to some degree -- that I didn't have to stay at Kanuga to sit and rock and that, indeed, I didn't even actually have to sit and rock in order to get what I wanted. Just thinking about sitting and rocking should provide some of the hoped-for benefit, shouldn't it?

Good thing that realization came before we arrived home. For any expectations we had about what we would do once there unraveled as the answering machine delivered its messages. A cousin of Tal's had died. The laundry and the lawn would have to wait. We drove to Columbia for a visitation at the funeral home Saturday afternoon and again following church on Sunday for the funeral and burial. Worship on Sunday morning and the sermon went well; it was a wonderful home-coming, in fact, our having been away for three Sundays.

But, given the second trip to Columbia Sunday afternoon, I went to a lunch meeting on Monday totally unprepared. The worst part? I was to supply the lunch! The promised meal came from a lovely Piggly Wiggly along the route I drove -- and it was good. So, I didn't HAVE to make the sandwiches myself and we didn't have to have matching plates and napkins. Go figure!

Somewhere in there both dogs ended up with fleas, requiring some extra-ordinary measures to begin to control the potential infestation, both on them and in the house and garage. Then, today I learned that my father is in the hospital, so I'm away from home again staying with my mother for a few days.

None of these things were anticipated as we departed Kanuga ... and I'm not raving. Blessedly, all I've had to do in the midst of these unfolding events to find a place of calm is close my eyes and feel myself rock. So far, though, I've not been able to make myself feel the cool mountain air that goes with that mountain porch!

08 July 2006

Happy 7th of July!

Last evening at 9:30 -- following a patriotic sing-along and the cheerful declaration, "Happy 7th of July, folks!" -- the rained-out Independence Day fireworks began over Kanuga Lake. It was a display worth the wait. A soft, cool evening with just a slight riffle on the water, from our position on the pavilion the display, being shot from the dam, reflected perfectly on the water. It was almost as if the fireworks were being shot in two directions, up AND down. Four times we thought it was over, our shouts of approval and our applause echoing across Kanuga's valley. Three times the showers of color and thump and pop of the explosions resumed. When it was all over, it was a quiet group that headed back toward the lodge and rows of cottages. Not only had the fireworks been wonderful, so had the long-awaited week ... and it was essentially over. Guest Period #1 2007 was part of one conversation I overheard as Tal and I turned toward Cottage 25 to get Whitby and Belle for their final walk of the day.

06 July 2006

Speaking of vespers ...

Despite my best intentions, there has not been very much photoshoot time this week, in part due to the chaplain's tasks and in part due to the weather. While this certainly isn't my best effort, this photo -- taken on Saturday, July 1st, at about 8PM -- shows the view from where I sit as I prepare to lead vespers each evening.

Quiet rain

Kanuga woke up to rain this morning, soft and steady with none of the lightening and thunder of recent days. Breakfast is over and I'm sitting deep in a green leather wingchair with the computer in my lap. I can see outside to the drippy leafy green, plus I'm in the flight path of the loveliest breeze. I can hear the rain along with soft music emanating from the bookstore, the indistinct murmur of conversation from groups scattered about the room, the steady whir of the fan behind the reception desk. For all the disappointment people are feeling over the weather, a spirit of calm joy pervades the place.

Tal and I, though we both have good rain gear, have postponed our trip to the DuPont State Forest until this afternoon when the rain is "scheduled" to cease. In the meantime I've a meditation to prepare for this evening's vespers ... and a morning nap does seem in order.

05 July 2006

97 year old white pines

This photograph was taken at 9PM on Sunday evening, showing the line of cottages along the main road at Kanuga. The cottages were built in 1909 and the white pines lining the road and now luxuriously shading the porches were planted in the same year. The chaplain's cottage porch is prominent in this view.

Several years ago a hurricane moved inland, its winds blowing east-to-west destroying all the old pines across the road. While "our" row was spared at that time, we're mindful of the need to take notice of them and to appreciate them. We cannot assume they'll be here the next time we are.

Miss Liberty and Uncle Sam

Tal and I are enjoying the chaplain's table here at Kanuga with Martha and Val Taylor (photographed on the 4th of July). The guest period chaplaincies are endowed and week one is in memory of Edward Haner, Martha's late husband. She and Val have been married three years, having met each other at an Appalachian Trail conference in Virginia -- she from Florida and he from Maine. In addition to Martha and Val at our table is Martha's son and daughter-in-law and (pictured here) 7-year-old grandson, Blake.

04 July 2006

Fourth of July rain

For the past two days it has felt like rain here at Kanuga, damp and cool through the night and early morning, pretty warm and hazy by lunch time, humid with distant rumble of thunder all afternoon. But hour-by-hour, each outdoor activity has "made it" -- from the early morning bird walk to the after supper wall climb. No one has been prevented, by the weather, from doing what he or she desired.

Late this afternoon the rain came very suddenly and the distant storm we'd been hearing for hours moved from the adjoining valley into this one bringing simultaneous lightening and thunder and driving rain. The electricity has gone off and in the direction of the lodge I can hear that the huge tan Generac generator outside the kitchen has come on. Our cottage is in the dark (I'm on battery power) and three Kanuga folks just trotted past the window I'm sitting near intent on seeing why the generator for this line of cottages is still silent. (Several generators were installed on the property following the disastrous ice storm just before Christmas 2005. Duke Power may fail, but Kanuga will not.)

While I'm on staff as the week's chaplain and have responsibilities throughout each day, I have none of the current worries the real staff has. And, I KNOW they're worried. Supper is to be an Independence Day cookout. Were the fifty tables and accompanying chairs and all the bunting already on the lakeside lawn and pavilion when the storm struck? The grills were already hot and cooking. I know that from the aroma wafting in my direction. After supper -- in the place of lakeside vespers just this once -- there was to have been square dance in the lodge parking lot. And, the fireworks. What of the fireworks to be shot from the dam at 9:30?

I know worse things can happen. Rain messing up planned outdoor activities is as old as all time. These good folks, though, working largely unseen to make this guest period a wonderful experience for roughly 400 people, have to be in panic mode at the moment. I suspect they're swinging into some well-discussed plan -- all the while knowing, first, that the skies could clear as suddenly as they darkened and, secondly, that folks who have been coming to guest periods for years are prepared for and can adapt to pretty much anything. This sort of a schedule's undoing, after all, is the stuff of "do you remember the year when?" family legend here at Kanuga.

That remembrance, though, could turn out to be a 4th of July North Korean missle launch. For me, I'm hoping for long-lived memory of the rain and the need for those big tan generators.

01 July 2006

Whitby and Belle on vacation

After a very few days at home following our trip to Shining Falls Lodge, a week during which the washing machine worked tirelessly – as did Tal in our yard, we are now at Kanuga, an Episcopal Conference Center in the North Carolina mountains near Hendersonville. This is the first of eight guest periods this summer and I have the joy and privilege of serving as chaplain.

While I am in working mode in unquestionably beautiful and restful surroundings, Whitby and Belle* are with us and we’re calling this week their vacation! When we arrived housekeeping was not quite ready to declare all facilities ready for occupancy, so we headed out on a walk around the lake. Suffice it to say that Whitby and Belle have had the first swim of their time away from home! (Now you know why they are not quite at their best.)

I am sad to say that, while the party inhabiting Cottage 25 was to have been larger, it is just the four of us; we had invited my parents to enjoy a week in the mountains as guests of the chaplain. They are, however, still at – or more correctly near – home, Dad being in the hospital. My photographs this week will be shot with an eye to sharing with them the beauty and calm of this place. Photographs won’t equal the experience of being present to any degree and certainly won’t provide the sound of a late afternoon thunderstorm the next valley over (to which I am listening as I write this), the wafting aromas of meals being prepared at the lodge (oh, the resounding CRUNCH of Kanuga toast!), or the heady chill of early morning in the mountains, but they will provide, I hope, a sense both of the longing I have for Mom and Dad to be able to be here and of the heartfelt blessings we pray for them from this location in the North Carolina mountains to theirs on the South Carolina coast.

* Whitby and Belle are our dogs. Watch for a photo to be taken when they are a bit more presentable.